Swansea 0 Middlesbrough 0: Goalless draw does little to alleviate relegation worries

Graham Clutton
Leroy Fer battles for a high ball with Rudy Gestede - Rex Features

Honours even at the Liberty Stadium and very few smiles as two of this season's relegation candidates fought out a goalless draw. Both sides had chances and both were denied by some decent defending and their own poor finishing.

In the end, Middlesbrough remain five points from safety with Swansea just a point and a place above the drop zone.

Swansea went into the game without striker Fernando Llorente who was ruled out with an ankle injury. Unfortunately, his absence was highlighted in a first half during which Luciano Narsingh and Gylfi Sigurdsson provided some decent service from wide areas. Time and again the ball was whipped into the red zone where Middlesbrough, through Ben Gibson and Bernado Espinosa, were rarely troubled.

Leroy Fer challenges for the ball Credit: REX FEATURES

Swansea's best opportunities came from further out. Jordan Ayew brought out a decent save from Victor Caldez in the 10th minute, whilst Tom Carroll's 34th-minute strike was inches wide.

At the opposite end, the visitors had two decent chances of their own. Like Swansea, they were left to wonder what might have been. First, Alvaro Negredo had a goalbound shot blocked and then, Stewart Downing was denied by a similar block.

Adama Traore, who caused Swansea one or two serious problems in the first half, came close to breaking the dealock six minutes into the second. A clever dummy from Negrado provided the time and space for Traore to settle himself before shooting wide of Lukas Fabianski's far post.

It was easy to see why Middlesbrough have scored only 20 times in the top flight this season. It was equally simple to see why only five sides have conceded less. They were firm and composed at the back with Ben Gibson and Bernardo Espinosa coping comfortably with whatever was thrown at them.

Gylfi Sigurdsson fires his free-kick over the bar Credit: REX FEATURES

A cross shot from Martin Olsson in the 55th minute summed up Swansea's afternoon. It was crying out for a natural goalscorer to provide the finishing touch. Sadly, the ball flew harmlessly across the six yard box with not a white shirt in sight.

As Swansea turned up the heat, so Boro retreated. You got the feeling that a scruffy goal was always likely to win it. That said, it was almost a Sigurdsson strike from 30 yards that did it. The Icelandic midfielder appeared to have beaten Valdes when the Spaniard leapt to his left and somehow clawed the ball to safety.

Sigurdsson felt he had won it, with five minutes remaining. However, his free-kick from 20 yards was deflected inches wide. Then, with just about the final action of the contest, Rudy Gestede headed wide from a Negredo cross, with only Fabianski to beat.

3:24PM

It's been a mismatch at Liberty Stadium so far

Swansea are dominating this game, firing in a total of 15 shots compared to seven from Middlesbrough so far.

Swansea vs Middlesbrough shots on goal 3:23PM

Average touch positions (full time)

Average touch positions (full time) 3:23PM

Full time: Swansea 0-0 Middlesbrough

The final whistle blows at Liberty Stadium.

2:35PM

Second half: Swansea 0-0 Middlesbrough

The action restarts at Liberty Stadium.

2:20PM

Average touch positions (half time)

Average touch positions (half time) 2:19PM

Half time: Swansea 0-0 Middlesbrough

The first 45 minutes is up at Liberty Stadium.

2:10PM

The shot count is similar

Swansea have attempted six shots so far, compared to three for Middlesbrough.

Swansea vs Middlesbrough shots on goal 2:07PM

Middlesbrough attack yet to make much of an impression

The visitors haven't yet managed to apply some concerted pressure on the Swansea backline.

Swansea vs Middlesbrough 2:03PM

Neither side taking control of the game yet

Swansea having more of the ball so far, with 231 touches to 201 from Middlesbrough.

Swansea vs Middlesbrough 1:43PM

Middlesbrough hit back

Middlesbrough register their first shot, in response to two so far from Swansea.

Swansea vs Middlesbrough shots on goal 1:30PM

Kick off: Swansea vs Middlesbrough

The action gets started at Liberty Stadium.

11:55AM

Match preview

Swansea host Middlesbrough in the early kick-off today and you can follow the latest score plus all the goals with our obedient Roboblogger.

In the meantime, here's a preview:

Paul Clement has given up playing "fantasy football" as he attempts to steer Swansea to Premier League safety.

Swansea face relegation rivals Middlesbrough with only goal difference separating the Welsh hosts from the drop zone following Hull's 2-1 victory over West Ham.

It is an opportunity for Swansea to put further distance between themselves and Middlesbrough, who are currently five points worse off with a game in hand and the lowest scorers in the Premier League.

Swansea start as big favourites having won their last three home games, but manager Clement gave up predicting results when he was Carlo Ancelotti's assistant at some of the biggest clubs in Europe.

"I've done a list on where the teams are and who has got who in the run-in," head coach Clement said of the relegation battle.

"But I don't predict the results because it never works out anything like that in reality.

"In the past, with Carlo, we've had our fixtures out and we'll say, 'We're going to get three there, three there, a point there, there's three'.

"But afterwards it doesn't look anything like what we've predicted.

"That is fantasy football. It's not real, so I don't do it.

"I don't say there is a definite three points, or one point, or none. It's a waste of time."

Middlesbrough have not won in the league since beating Swansea 3-0 at their Riverside home on December 17.

Both clubs have changed managers since then, with Clement replacing Bob Bradley at the start of January and Steve Agnew succeeding Aitor Karanka last month.

Run-in

This will be Agnew's second game in interim charge and Clement says he was not surprised that Boro chose to change their manager so late in the season.

"They had come off the back end of some bad results and it's the last throw of the dice for them," Clement said.

"They were thinking, 'Can they get that bounce back by bringing in someone new?'. And they thought that was a risk worth taking.

"When we played Leicester (Swansea won 2-0) it was Claudio Ranieri's last Premier League game.

"Maybe, if we had caught them in Craig Shakespeare's first game, you might have said it was a different situation.

"You could look at it and think, 'Oh we got fortunate with the timing of the Leicester situation - it worked for us there'.

"But you can't get too tied up with things that goes on outside your team."

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